Some months ago I wrote a post about this research from the University of York which highlights what is for me the scandalous fact that more than half of poor readers are not identified as requiring intervention at any point during their secondary education. In this alarming chart from the report, poor readers are defined as those with a reading age of 8 years or below.
The research was undertaken in 2010 so it’s possible that practice has improved since then, but I know of no more recent study. With many schools now employing fewer teaching assistants, and with the focus on ‘challenging texts’ rather than whether learners can actually read them, I have to say I’m not filled with optimism.
I work at an all ability high school in a selective so low levels of literacy are an issue for us – and we invest in it. We are able to buck the national trend because we have a large team of well trained, highly skilled teaching assistants. This enables all of our weak readers to follow interventions, most just during the course of KS3, some only for six months, but a handful – those who qualify for access arrangements – right through to Year 11. We use GL Assessment’s NGRT to screen the whole cohort annually and to monitor the progress of our intervention students every six months. The NGRT enables us to distinguish between decoding and comprehension difficulties and thus to select the most appropriate interventions.
A few readers of my earlier post asked about the interventions we use. I delayed responding because we introduced a new one this year, Hackney Learning Trust’s LIT programme.
I wanted to give this programme six months so that I could evaluate its impact. I write now to report that it’s been extraordinarily effective, despite an EEF study suggesting that it made just 1+ month difference (though no great claims are made for the validity of the data, if you read the study).
Here’s our Year 7 data:
To explain these figures, our weakest readers (under 7.11) have followed a synthetic phonics based reading programme – Rising Stars’ Dockside. Like the LIT programme, this is new to us. Formerly, we used Cowling’s one to one Hornet with these learners but we wanted to try a more cost effective and arguably more engaging group reading approach. In light of this slightly disappointing data, however, we’ll reintroduce Hornet – little and often, one to one.
It’s the students with reading ages 8 and above who have followed the LIT programme, in small groups, for two 1hr sessions a week. Clearly, their progress has been phenomenal. Furthermore, it’s been replicated in Year 8 and Year 9. The data for Y8 and 9 is particularly significant because it shows how the introduction of the LIT programme has accelerated the progress we were already seeing.
Our current Y8 intervention cohort progressed by an average of 5.4 months during Y7. Half way through Year 8, they had already made an average of 13.5 months. The picture for Year 9 looks like this:
- Average progress Y7 (2012-13) 9.1 months
- Average progress Y8 (2013-14) 7.2 months
- Average progress Y9 (2014-15) 17.2 months
Something happened in 2014-15, and it was the LIT programme.
Previously, we relied on Accelerated Reader alone to ensure that our poor comprehenders were regularly reading books at the right level to secure progress. We still use this but the combination of independent reading through AR with the reciprocal teaching that underpins the LIT programme has evidently made a game changing difference.
I’ll blog again about reciprocal teaching because I now use it with whole classes and that’s been exciting too. I’ve included a few pics here though to introduce those not familiar with the approach to the reciprocal reading ‘super skills’ (with apologies to the faint hearted for our non-uniform day!).
More of all that later. The main purpose of this post is simply to wholeheartedly recommend the Hackney LIT programme which incorporates these super skills within a highly engaging small group intervention. The day’s training which comes with the £3k programme (a one off payment) is fun too.